Comelec OKs Protestant group as watchdog

Reynaldo Santos Jr

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One Vote, a coalition of mostly Protestant groups, will have access to voters' lists, machine tests, and election returns

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has accredited a third group to be an official citizens’ arm in the upcoming midterm elections.

Through a resolution on January 25, the poll body has accredited the group One Vote, a coalition of mostly religious organizations from various Protestant denominations. This is the third electoral exercise where One Vote has been accredited as a watchdog.

The Comelec earlier accredited the Philippine Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), a Catholic group, and the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) as citizens’ arms.

One Vote identifies itself as a “mass-based constituency” that is composed of groups such as the Lighthouse Bible Baptist Church, Balikatan People’s Alliance, Philippine Bible Society, Philippine Campus Crusade for Christ, Far East Broadcasting Company, and others.

The group is represented by lawyer Eduardo Bringas and has an address on Timog Avenue, Quezon City.

In its petition for accreditation, the group boasts that it has “widened its mass-based constituency” by including in its coalition groups such as the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the Citizen’s Crime Watch (CCW).

It also claims that it “has been actively engaging in non-partisan activities such as voter’s education and poll watching.”

The Comelec’s rules of procedures allow the poll body to accredit as citizens’ arm “any bona fide non-partisan group, association or organization from the civic, youth, professional, educational, business or labor sectors with identifiable leadership, membership and structure, and with demonstrated capacity to promote the public interest and assist the Commission in the performance of its functions and activities.”

As accredited citizens’ arm groups, One Vote, PPCRV, and Namfrel are expected to conduct poll watching in precincts, provide assistance to voters on election day, and assist Comelec in its information dissemination campaign.

The following privileges are extended to them:

  • obtain copies of the official voters list and Project of Precincts;
  • witness the examination and testing of the equipment to be used in the casting and counting of votes;
  • receive copies of the election results to be printed by the poll machines before and after the electronic transmission.

One Vote claims it has already formalized its voter education at the barangay level, but admits that it is still revising its information dissemination system. “This is one of the internal problems that were encountered during the 2010 elections,” it said in its petition.

“One Vote was able to assist the Commission during the 2010 National and Local Elections and 2010 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections despite being a newcomer thereto, a not so easy feat,” the resolution stated.

When it first applied for accreditation for the 2010 automated polls, the group claimed that its member-organizations “have done their respective part towards an honest, meaningful and peaceful elections such as the activities conducted by Balikatan during the 2004 and 2007 and Voteright during the 2007 elections.” –

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